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Cicero

Posted 2/9/2012 8:50pm by Eugene Wyatt.

At Amazon I couldn't find a book with an example of Cicero's famed periodic sentence style (other authors were exampled; but not he, the original master) where the sentence is not complete and does not make sense until the last word, phrase or clause is written. Nothing in print, I was dumbfounded.

I appealed to Anthony Whalen, a professor of Latin I know from Greenmarket, for a translation showing me one of Cicero's periods as it appears verbatim in Latin. He chose the first sentence of De Officiis, "a doozy" to quote him, which had been chopped up into smaller (more understandable?) sentences by the modern translators whose books I'd leafed through. 

"Conventional modern English loves short sentences and hates long sentences; it is my dim recollection from Freshman Composition that the worst term of opprobrium that Strunk and White could wave at a passage was "run-on sentence". Therefore, modern translators have spayed (Cicero's) periods. Even in the Loeb Classical Library 1913 version, the translator is rather cheating with his semicolons, which are virtually independent sentences. Mine is a period."

Although it must be true, my son Marcus, that you, having heard now for a year the philosopher Cratippus in person, and that in Athens, must abound in precepts and principles of philosophy on account of the depth and deep learning of the teacher and of the city, the one of whom is able to augment you by knowledge, the other by examples, however, as I myself have for my own benefit joined Latin studies with Greek studies and not did I do this in philosophy only, but also in the discipline of forensic training, I maintain that same this should be done by you, so that you may be equal in the faculty of each language, indeed, by which thing, as it seems to us, we have rendered a signal service to our countrymen, so that not only those who cannot read Greek, but even the learned suppose they have gained something both in relation to oratorical training but in mental training.

After searching I found a 19th century version of De Officiis by Marcus Tullius Cicero 44 BC translated as On Duty with the original periodic sentence structure mostly intact by Andrew P. Peabody, 1887.